Sara Moulton is a woman after our own hearts: whether in writing or on TV, she is a home cook dedicated to encouraging others to get into the kitchen. At the start of her career, she snagged a job behind the scenes on "Julia Child and More Company" -- and for that, we're incredibly jealous. Since then, she has penned numerous cookbooks, founded the New York Women's Culinary Alliance, and starred in her eponymous show on PBS. "Sara's Weeknight Meals" is now in its third season, providing us with easy meals that keep weeknights exciting and manageable all at once. We sat down with her to discuss everything from last-minute pantry meals to cooking with family.
How did your work in restaurant kitchens affect the way you cook at home? My restaurant work gave me better kitchen skills (there is nothing like repetition to fine tune your knife work) and taught me to work cleanly and be organized in the kitchen. It also made me think quickly on my feet and realize that I can fix almost any problem I encounter while cooking.
Let's suspend reality for a minute: you want to eat in 30 minutes, you haven't planned dinner, and your fridge isn't fully stocked. What meal do you throw together from the contents of your pantry (or freezer)? It's always something to do with pasta or rice. I always have them in the cupboard as well as chicken broth, parmesan cheese, eggs, canned beans, tomato sauce, frozen peas, and frozen bacon. I usually have some leftover cooked vegetables on hand as well. So I either make pasta with vegetables, bacon and a sauce, or fried rice with vegetables, egg, and bacon.
In January, we discussed which kitchen tools are essential and which should be tossed out. Tell us: what is your most useful kitchen tool? Are there any pieces in your kitchen that are unnecessary, but you've held on to for the sake of beauty or sentiment?
There are so many tools I love. A few favorites are: tongs, my giant bench scraper (aka a cake lifter), a metal fish spatula, microplane, knives, vegetable peeler, instant read meat thermometer, and assorted whisks.
I do, however, have a love/hate relationship with my pressure cooker. I have not gotten rid of it because I know it could come in very handy some day if I just got over my fear of actually using it.
I also have an old set of my grandmother's dry (metal, probably aluminum) measuring cups which might not be completely accurate. But every time I use them, I think of her and it makes me happy. One of the 1/4-cup measures did not have a number on it and she scratched 1/4 on the bottom probably using the end of a paper clip.
We're big into community here. Aside from sharing your knowledge through your cooking show, what is your favorite way to cook with others? My favorite way to share food with other is to cook side-by-side. I have been doing that more with my son, as well as my niece and nephew (my daughter, on the other hand, is a loss). We have so much fun! It reminds me of being part of a team in a restaurant, because often we're cooking for a huge family gathering and time is of the essence.
What is the most important thing you want to share with your viewers on Sara's Weeknight Meals? I want to teach people that cooking is not rocket science; it is fun and therapeutic. The best way to learn how to cook -- is to cook!
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).